By Mark I. Pinsky for The Arty Semite
Simpsons” 25th anniversary marathon on cable network FXX — now airing
every episode, plus the 2007 feature film — includes a surprising
insight for careful observers: The award-winning cartoon sitcom is one
of the Jews’ best friends.
For millions in North America and
globally who have never actually met a Jew, “The Simpsons” has showcased
us in a knowing, sympathetic, yet realistic way. The series has
portrayed numerous important aspects of modern (and ancient) Jewish life
in brilliant 23-minute bites. If the only thing viewers knew about the
Jews was what they saw on “The Simpsons,” they — and we — would be well
Jews are part of the fabric of Springfield (The Simpsons’
home town), arguably a modern American version of Chelm, Yiddish
folklore’s fabled village of nitwits. On the show, a Conservative
synagogue (or Orthodox; it’s deliberately vague, like much in the
series) has the unlikely moniker of Temple Beth Springfield. There’s a
preserved-in-amber “old neighborhood,” straight out of New York’s Lower
East Side (“Tannen’s Fatty Meats”), plus a Jewish “Walk of Fame,”
featuring Sandy Koufax, Joan Rivers, Albert Einstein and Lorne Michaels.
Springfield has lots of clueless gentiles, beginning with Protestant
minister, Reverend Lovejoy, who keeps the local rabbi in a separate
“non-Christian Rolodex,” and an elementary school principal who thinks
Yom Kippur is a made-up holiday. No doubt in observance of the High Holy
Days, the marquee of Lovejoy’s neighboring (but unneighborly) church
reads: “No Synagogue Parking.” On a visit to New York, bad boy Bart
Simpson mistakes three bearded rabbis for the Texas rock group ZZ Top.
Homer, the family’s lovable doofus dad, is shocked to learn from his
daughter that Mel Brooks is Jewish. He is so confused, he asks, in
another episode, “Are we Jewish?”
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